Murrells Inlet community learns about obstacles for bike path (copy)

Mike Wooten, a S.C. Department of Transportation commissioner for the 7th Congressional District, is stepping down. Above, he discusses possibilities for a bike path along U.S. Highway 17 Business in October 2015.

Mike Wooten, a Murrells Inlet resident who has served four and a half years on the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission and formerly as chairman, is stepping down from that position due to a new law that goes into effect July 1.

"The new law basically states that commissioners cannot apply for permits from SCDOT," Wooten, president of DDC Engineers in Myrtle Beach, said in a June 22 interview with the Georgetown Times. "So, if I stayed on the commission, I would have to abandon my business and  I am certainly not willing to do that."

He said his term, representing District 7 including all, or part of, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties, ends on August 15 anyway, which was extedned from the original date of Feb. 15. Governor Henry McMaster announced Friday Myrtle Beach businessman Tony. K Cox as Wooten's interim replacement.

“Tony is a highly respected leader in our state’s business community and his service to our state will be invaluable,” McMaster said. “He will ensure taxpayer dollars are properly used to pave and repair roads because that’s what South Carolinians deserve. He will be an advocate for reform and efficiency because that’s what the system needs.”

Wooten said he is very proud of what the SCDOT Commission has accomplished.

"Attaining the permit for Interstate 73 from the Army Corps of Engineers is at the top of that list," he said. "We also attained the first increase in state funding for DOT with the recent gas tax increase passed by the state legislature. We hadn’t had gas tax increase in 30 years."

A new state road-funding law raises the gas tax by 2 cents starting July 1. The tax will eventually rise by 12 cents over the next six years, to 28.75 cents per gallon, according to officials.

Other accomplishments include choosing "the best secretary of transportation in the nation," Wooten said, referring to Christy Hall.

"One of the lasting things we accomplished is making a change so the secretary is chosen by the commission," he said. "That way, it is exempt from political shifts in the state."

Wooten said he is also proud of the accolades SCDOT has received.

"We went through the largest and most intensive legislative audit in the history of South Carolina, which proved high efficiency, no fraud, no corruption and no wasting of funds," he said. "We were also ranked the most efficient DOT in America by the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials."

Wooten said now that he will no longer be on the SCDOT Commission, he plans to spend more time with his two grandchildren and more time on his farm in Florence County.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to do both at the same time," he said.

Cox is 59 and a graduate of Coastal Carolina University. He is a real estate professional with over 35 years of experience. He currently serves as the executive vice president at Burroughs and Chapin Co. in Myrtle Beach, according to a press release from the governor's office.

Cox has previously served on the South Carolina Real Estate Commission, Horry County Planning Commission and the Myrtle Beach Air Base Redevelopment Authority.

Clayton Stairs/South Strand News